It’s absolutely maddening! When a coworker plays music too loud, if you’re anything like me you want to scream. Except THAT would be seen as a bad thing. But their loud music is ok?
Early on in my career I worked in a bank, where my cubicle was right next to someone who loved his music. The way we were positioned, I was the only one who heard Arthur’s music. Well, besides him. And he found my annoyance amusing. Not his problem, he told me.
So whose ears need help when a coworker plays music?
I admit, I am especially noise sensitive. And his music was constant. It was how Arthur blocked out the sounds from the rest of the office. Except his sounds became my sounds. And I could not block them out while trying to work, as hard as I tried.
When I complained to Arthur, he was totally unconcerned about how his preferences intruded on my needs. In fact, he told me he was not going to stop. And that I should use earplugs or headphones. When I suggested HE use headphones, since he was the source of the noise, he refused.
While I’d like to tell you I took it all in stride, I didn’t. He made me furious. Especially his cool, uncaring attitude. And I was pretty sure he enjoyed my reaction. So I was not ready to give in and spend my workdays encumbered by things to block MY ears.
But seething anger can only get you so far
For a while, each day became a fight for me. “Turn down your music, Arthur!” “No,” he said with an annoying smile. I did not back down. But neither did he. I know we sound like children, and I guess that’s how we acted. But I also know this takes place in offices on a daily basis.
Of course, you can simply give in and use earplugs or headphones. For many people this is probably the wisest solution. And often can keep a situation from escalating in ways you never imagined.
But I find earplugs or headphones uncomfortable for so many hours. And again, he was making the choice to create noise — so let him wear the headphones. Or at least that was the way I felt oh so many years ago.
So what can you do when a coworker plays music?
- Talk to the person calmly, and reason with them. In some cases, this alone will do the trick.
- Show them more strongly how upset you are. And make it clear just how much it interferes with your ability to do your work.
- Tell your boss and ask for help. In my case, he told us to resolve it. Thanks, boss!
- Go to Human Resources. This is a form of bullying. You may get help, but not always.
- Start a counter-annoyance campaign, using music or perhaps smelly food. (Just don’t tell anyone that I suggested this, because the odds of it working are slim.)
Well, there is another possible solution
Since I was getting nowhere fast with my emotion-fueled efforts to change HIM, I looked for something else to change. Although it took a while, I eventually got my boss to move me to a different cubicle.
While I believe in standing up for yourself, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is get away from the source of annoyance. Arthur seemed to get a kick out of annoying me — and I wasn’t the only one.
Luckily, the person who got my old space was not as easily annoyed by other people’s sounds. And I am not ashamed to tell you with a smile that his hot lunches were quite odoriferous. Poor Arthur was not amused.
Have a better idea? Feel free to add your own stories and solutions!
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